Thank you Jeroen,
Congratulations on this successful first ECOFIN meeting under the Dutch Presidency.
I welcome the commitment of Jeroen and the Presidency to take forward decisively work on strengthening the Euro area and completing our Economic and Monetary Union.
We look forward to supporting you in this work.
Today, we discussed the 2016 European Semester, specifically the new cycle of economic policy coordination for 2016.
Ministers broadly share the Commission's analysis that European economies are recovering, but this recovery is fragile and we need a policy mix that can support and unlock growth.
We have to build on our 3-way approach to unlocking growth and jobs: This means boosting investment, pursuing structural reforms to modernise our economies and continuing fiscally-responsible policies.
Ministers welcomed our approach to publish the euro recommendation earlier than in the past so that Member States can take them into account as they shape their national policies.
We welcome that Ministers have decided to include one additional euro-area recommendation on the commitment to work on EMU deepening.
This is a strong political signal that there is political will to work on strengthening the fundamentals of our currency union, despite the challenges that Europe faces today.
One of the important elements of the work on EMU deepening is completing the Banking Union.
Just before the end of last year, all Member States had ratified the Inter-Governmental Agreement on the Single Resolution Fund. It is now fully operational. The Single Resolution Board, in cooperation with the national resolution authorities, now has all the powers to deal with failing banks.
The problem still remains that some Member States have not yet fully implemented the Bank Recovery and Resolution Directive and the Deposit Guarantee Scheme. We call the Member States to do so without further delay.
This week, Ministers also agreed on the mandate to start discussions on the Commission's proposals to complete the Banking Union, including the European Deposit Insurance Scheme.
On the Turkey Fund, we share the Presidency's sense of urgency to get the Fund up and running. However, there is still some work to be done on the financing details.
In today's meeting, we again discussed the fight against terrorism financing.
Since the December ECOFIN, when the Commission set out the issues that we are looking at to combat the financing of terrorism, our work at technical level has substantially advanced.
We aim to present an Action Plan, setting out a series of measures, including legislative ones, ahead of the next Ecofin meeting in February.
In the meantime, we call on Member States to better use existing measures – such as, for example, improving assets freezes and implementation of the 4th Anti-Money Laundering Directive, coordination between Financial Intelligence Units and helping information to be shared better between Member States.
Finally, we also discussed the question of VAT fraud. Each year, almost €170 billion of tax revenues are lost because of VAT fraud.
At the same time, businesses face complex and inefficient VAT collection systems, especially when they go cross-border.
The Commission will address these issues in an Action Plan, which we intend to present in March. It will set out ways to tackle VAT fraud, especially - but not only - on cross-border transactions. We will also look at the option of the reverse charge mechanism and other options to tackle tax fraud.
I look forward to working closely with Jeroen and the Dutch Presidency to move forward on these important issues.